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Massachusetts Lawmakers Hold Hearings On Gun Bills

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The state legislature in Massachusetts is inching closer to acting on new gun laws more than six months after the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut.  A legislative committee is holding a series of public hearings around the state this summer.

More than 60 gun-related bills were filed in the Massachusetts State Legislature this session. The Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security has launched a series of public hearings across the state.  Democratic State Representative Harold Naughton of Clinton, the co-chair of the committee, has said he hopes to recommend a comprehensive bill by September.

The committee’s next hearing is scheduled for Monday at Assumption College in Worcester. A hearing in Springfield is tentatively scheduled on August 2nd.

The push to toughen what are already considered among the strictest gun control laws in the country was sparked by the shooting rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six educators dead.  New York and Connecticut have already enacted new gun laws

The gun bills the Massachusetts legislature is weighing include legislation proposed by Governor Deval Patrick that would  restrict access to high powered rounds of ammunition, create four new types of gun crimes, and require background checks for buyers at gun shows.

There are also proposals to study whether GPS locators should be installed in guns, to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance in case the gun is used to injure someone, and to create a data base of people convicted of gun crimes, similar to the sex offender registry.

The legislature is also waiting for a report from a task force appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo.  The task force, chaired by Northeastern University Associate Dean Jack McDevitt is looking at the relationship between gun violence and mental health.

Police in Springfield seized more than 200 illegally possessed firearms last year. Springfield Deputy Police  Chief  William Cochrane said much of the trafficking in illegal guns can be traced to lax laws in other states.

Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonette was part of a group of local elected officials and police officers who met with Rep. Nauhgton earlier this year to talk about the problem of gun violence.

Not all of the bills the legislature is considering would restrict access to guns. One would repeal the state’s ban on assault weapons.  Another would prohibit the confiscation of any lawfully possessed firearm during a state of emergency.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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